By Murray Evans
PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2013) – It’s obvious Oklahoma Christian has a talented women’s golf team, already worthy of a national ranking among NCAA Division II squads. OC coach Greg Lynn knows the Lady Eagles will break into the win column sooner or later.
Twelve times in the program’s 2½ years, the Lady Eagles have finished second, including three times this fall. They’d love nothing better than for that first win to be for a national title in the National Christian College Athletic Association Invitational, which will start Monday at The Hombre Golf Club.
Lynn learned long ago not to make any promises, but he believes his team is fully capable of being the one posing with the national-championship banner on Wednesday, when the 72-hole tournament ends.
“I hesitate to really raise expectations,” Lynn said. “We’re just going to go out there and see what we can do.”
The key for the Lady Eagles, Lynn said, will be consistency. If four of OC’s five players put together quality rounds each day, the Lady Eagles will be hard to beat.
“Will it happen? It hasn’t happened yet,” Lynn said. “But I’m confident in the girls. They have tremendous talent. They just have to put it together. We have yet to ever have five girls all play good at the same time. That’s what we need to do at nationals.”
OC has three players capable of challenging for medalist honors on the par-72, 5,616-yard course, starting with junior Anna Arrese Cortadellas. She has won the NCCAA student-athlete of the week award after each of OC’s last three tournaments and is an 11-time NCCAA or NAIA national weekly award winner.
She ranks ninth among Division II golfers with a stroke average of 73.56 and has never finished outside the top 10 in any of the 20 collegiate tournaments in which she’s played. She finished fourth at last year’s NCCAA event – also played at The Hombre – to earn All-America honors.
Freshman India Matthews is tied for 24th in Division II in stroke average at 75.00 and has been a fixture on the leaderboard in most of the Lady Eagles’ tournaments this fall, posting a pair of third-place finishes.
Sophomore Audrey Meisch captured medalist honors at the Hawks Creek Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas, to open the fall and is the only OC player to post an individual win this fall. She’s 34th in stroke average in Division II (75.44) and just missed earning NCCAA All-America honors last year, finishing ninth while playing as OC’s No. 5 golfer.
“Audrey is not the same person,” Lynn said. “Her ability is so much better than it was.”
Two other freshmen, Allison Sell and Dana Todd, round out the Lady Eagles’ lineup, and both have proven capable this season of posting solid scores to help the team – something they’ll need to do this week if the Lady Eagles are to win.
In last year’s NCCAA event, the Lady Eagles finished second to Heartland Conference rival Dallas Baptist (Texas). DBU is back this year and enters ranked No. 19 in NCAA Division II, although OC already owns wins over No. 16 (Cameron), No. 17 (Arkansas Tech) and No. 18 (Newman, Kan.) this season.
Besides DBU, OC and fellow Heartland member McMurry (Texas), the NCCAA field will consist of Bethel (Ind.), Campbellsville (Ky.), Lee (Tenn.), North Greenville (S.C.), Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) and Shorter (Ga.). Like OC and McMurry, Lee, Point Loma Nazarene and Shorter are in the midst of the NCAA Division II membership process, while Dallas Baptist already is a Division II member.
All the teams but Campbellsville and Lee played in the event last year.
OC will be paired with Campbellsville and Shorter in the first round and will tee off at 7:30 a.m. on Monday.
On paper, DBU and OC – which was 27th in the balloting for the most recent Division II coaches’ poll – would appear to be the favorites, with Lee perhaps a dark horse. Lynn wants his team to play like it’s the team to beat.
“You’ve got to go out and do it,” he said. “My team is stronger than last year, obviously. Dallas Baptist, until they lose, is the team to beat. … If my girls play well, nobody can touch us. I can tell you that.”